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A little bit of history – on how the US interstate highway system came to be

Here’s one of those quick shares that I usually post here. I am a bit of a history buff and mixing that with transport will likely lead to a post like this. Here is a short article about an event in the history of the US Army that happened 100 years ago:

editor@aashto.org (2019) Celebrating Highway History: The US Army’s 1919 Cross-Country Convoy, aashto.org, https://aashtojournal.org/2019/07/12/celebrating-highway-history-the-u-s-armys-1919-cross-country-convoy/ [Last accessed: July 12, 2019]

The article was particularly interesting for me because of two items: the road conditions and the man behind the US inter-state highway system. It took them a little over 2 months to cross the continental US because of poor road conditions. Many people have no sense of history and appreciation of what has been accomplished over the years and how difficult it was to travel at the time. I haven’t done the cross country trip but I have close friends who’ve done it and are thankful for the generally good roads they could use for the experiential road trip. Meanwhile, the person in the article – then Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower – is a man who made his mark in history at first as the Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in the European Theater in World War 2, who would later on become President of the US. I read elsewhere that the US interstate highway system was designed so aircraft may use them as runways in cases when the US were at war and the enemy had bombed their airports and airfields (just like what the Japanese did in the Pacific).

Do we have similar accounts for our roads and bridges in the Philippines? Were there key persons who may or may not be larger than life figures instrumental in developing our road infrastructure with their vision and leadership (Marcos doesn’t count because of his bogus military record and corrupt regime)? It would be nice to compile these and perhaps it should be a collaboration between the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the National Historical Commission (NHC). They could even get the history departments of local universities involved for us to understand the evolution of transportation in this country.

Reservoir roads – Part 2

Previously, I posted about the reservoir roads we crossed when we traveled to Baler, Aurora last April 2019. It’s been a while since that post so before I forget, here are more photos of those reservoir roads taken during our return trip from Baler.

The two lane highway becomes a single lane section at the Diayo River Reservoir road

A view of the fish pens at the Diayo River reservoir

Pristine waters with the Sierra Madre mountain range in the background

Approaching the end of the Diayo reservoir road

There is a checkpoint at the 2-lane section bridging the Diayo reservoir road with the Canili River reservoir road

Vehicles entering the Canili reservoir road – this again is a one-lane, one-way section where vehicles from either direction would have to give way to either.

Shoulder and fish pens 

Waters of the Canili River Reservoir with the Sierra Madre mountains in the background

Fishermen on a banca – they looked like they were inspecting their fish pens

 

On the efficiency of transportation – a crash course on transportation engineering concepts

There is an excellent article on the efficiency of transportation systems:

Gleave, J. (2019) Space/Time and Transport Planning, Transport Futures, https://transportfutures.co/space-time-and-transport-planning-1aae891194e5 [Last accessed: February 25, 2019].

It is highly recommended not just for academics (including students) but also for anyone interested in transportation and traffic. It’s like a crash course in transportation engineering with a lot of basic concepts in traffic engineering and traffic flow theory being presented for easy understanding by anyone. Enjoy!

Vertical curves along the Pan Philippine Highway

We start the month of March with a compilation of photos of vertical curves (mostly sags). These were taken along the Andaya Highway, which serves as the main bypass road in Camarines that allows travellers to bypass, for example, Daet.

 

These photos do not have captions and I leave it to my readers to have an appreciation of the features of these sections. These include wide carriageways with paved shoulders. There are also sections that have no shoulders. For most photos, the pavement appears to be in good condition. However, the same cannot be said for much of the highway, sections of which are being rehabilitated along with several bridges.

Another look at the Bitukang Manok

I recently featured photos of the old zigzag road along the Pan Philippine Highway that is more popularly known as the “Bitukang Manok”. Those photos were taken on an early morning while we were on our way to Bicol earlier this month. Following are photos of the old zigzag road taken on the afternoon of our return trip to Manila.

Crossroads – at the intersection at the southern end where travellers decide whether to take the Bitukang Manok or the newer and easier bypass road

The sign states: Vehicles with 6 or more wheels are prohibited from using the old zig-zag road.

Sign for the Quezon National Forest Park – this designation is attributed to a former President and local congressman

Here’s a photo of one of the more challenging sections. A team of flagmen manage traffic by giving turns to either direction, ensuring slower speeds and wider turning at the hairpin curve. Travelers often toss coins as a token of gratitude for these flagmen who man this challenging section of the national highway 24 hours/day.

The barriers and signs along Bitukang Manok have been upgraded and are well-maintained.

Approach to the northern end of the old zigzag road

Directional sign at the other end of Bitukang Manok showing the options for travellers and  another advisory stating the prohibition of large vehicles along the old zigzag road.

Bitukang Manok

I woke up from a long nap just before we entered a major zigzag section of the Pan Philippine Highway that is more popularly known as the “Bitukang Manok”. That literally translates to “chicken innards or intestines”, which is how many travellers would describe the alignment of this section of the national highway network. We decided to take the “old zigzag road” instead of the “new diversion road” since the latter is known to be already congested especially as trucks and buses take this road instead of the zigzag.

Expectedly, the road offered all kinds of curves and grades throughout. I was glad to see relatively new barriers already installed or constructed along the entire length of Bitukang Manok.

Here is a particularly challenging section combining sharp hairpin curves with steep inclines.

We caught up with this rider along a relatively straight and level segment of the road

There are flagmen strategically deployed along the most difficult parts of the road including this one that might lead inexperienced or erring drivers to drive/ride straight off a cliff.

Here’s another hairpin curve; this time on the way down from the mountain.

The final turn of the road before it merged with the diversion road

Sign at the other end of the road showing travellers the divergence of the national highway into the “old zigzag road” and the “new diversion road”. Notice the platoon of southbound trucks at right. 

I remember Bitukang Manok as a dreaded section among travellers before not just from the safety viewpoint but also because many can get sick (e.g., motion sickness that may result into throwing up) going through the section especially if the driver is not as smooth in manoeuvring the vehicle through the zigzags. There were also long distance bicycle races before where the Bitukang Manok featured as the main challenge to the best cyclists and the winner of that leg of the race was pronounced as “king of the mountain”.

Signs of the times – road signs or ads?

A friend recently posted an episode on his vlog that featured the excessive signage we now find along many roads. I thought this was a relevant topic as, for one, there are many signs that are basically contributing to the “visual pollution” that tend to either distract travellers or make them numb about these signs. Hindi pa kasali dito ang mga LED/video ads that are now installed around the metropolis. Being a distraction means they may lead to road crashes. But then there is also the issue of clutter and obstruction. I noticed that many signs have been installed without consideration of the spaces required by pedestrians and cyclists. Many seem to have been forcibly installed at locations blocking the path of pedestrians.

So which among these signs is the only one that should be there? Only one and that is the one in the middle informing travellers of the signalised intersection ahead. The others are basically ads masquerading as signs (directional signs to be more specific).

I avoid describing inappropriate signs as ‘illegal’ simply because the proponents were given permission for installation by local government units including the MMDA. LGUs seem to benefit from these as I also see inappropriate signs bearing the logos or slogans of LGUs. Meanwhile, the DPWH seems to be mum about this concern, which appears to be a non-issue among the government entities involved. What do you think about such ads pretending to be road signs?